Thursday, October 25, 2012

More Thoughts on Whirled Squash Day

Grumbling from a few squashists about perceived inattention on the part of US Squash towards World Squash Day, including my own humble thoughts on this blog, has led US Squash to provide a list of the things they have done. That story is located here.

Seeing the list, I think they have done a pretty good job after all. I have my quibbles, but I won't bore you with them. 

I think the lesson here is perception versus reality. The reality is the organization had done quite a few things, and for me to say they hadn't was incorrect. But the perception of that inattention was not mine alone, so I think some thought should go into why that perception was out there.

One thing I noticed was this: Much of the activity on World Squash Day emanated from the site, whose name implies coverage of a sole tournament. Not being able to go to that tournament, I didn't spend too much time on the site. US Squash has, however, put a fair amount of content on this site that is not specifically related to the tournament, and some of that content involved World Squash Day. There was much less going on at the US Squash website  -- hence, my perception was of minimalistic effort.

All that being said, I want to reiterate that I am a strong supporter of US Squash and always have been. I've said as much in several of my blogs. They have done a terrific job advancing the sport in the US with limited funds and with limited personnel. They have many constituents that they must try to help, and sometimes those constituents can't help but feel a bit abandoned. In addition, with the Olympics bid once again heating up, US Squash has done considerable work aiding the worldwide squash community's efforts to get into the quadrennial games. Much of that work has been behind the scenes and under the radar of the average fan.

So, the reality is, good work US Squash.  And my perception has improved.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Thoughts on 'World Squash Day'

World Squash Day was a success, having generated much-needed publicity for our game and providing a great excuse for the squash-infatuated public the world over to get together and play some squash. 

The publicity aspect is very important. Heightening the profile of this often subliminal sport should be the principal focus of everyone who really cares about the game, including local clubs, regional and national squash associations, squash equipment marketers, and those whose job it is to impress the Olympics committee to give squash entree into the quadrennial games. 

There were a lot of clubs the world over who participated, indeed in all continents except Antarctica. It shows once again the universality of this great game

But, writing as an American, i was less than impressed with US Squash's commitment to the day. Barely a notice on their website, only one last-minute mention as the day was nearly upon us. 

For an organization that usually gets things right, I was underwhelmed and surprised. I'm not sure what the the motivation was behind the lackluster involvement, but the results showed. There were not a lot of US clubs who participated in World Squash Day, and that number surely would have risen if US Squash had made an effort. Is there something wrong with publicizing your sport worldwide? Please let me know; I don't get it.

Other national squash foundations were also absent or nearly absent, while, fortunately, others were more fully involved. I personally feel that an effort like that of World Squash Day could only serve the sport well, and hope next time national squash foundations will get off their butts and get behind it.

As for my actual squash on World Squash Day, I had an interesting match. I was playing a fellow who closely matched my abilities. We played a tough first game, which he ended up winning 11-9. In the second game i started strong and maintained a lead all the way up to 10-8, game ball to me, but my opponent serving. His serve is a lazy one, well off the wall. In those cases I will often hit a hard shot into the front side wall corner, which sends the ball whipping around and bouncing twice before my opponent can get to it. I hit this shot, and I hit it well. Really hard, just above the tin, no chance to get it, game The Squashist.

Oh no, says he, he heard a bit of tin. What? I couldn't believe it, tin? The ball was hit smoking fast, any tin that might have been hit would have made itself a lot more apparent. Plus the ball's bounce would be deformed. But he insisted. He heard tin. There were about 10 people watching our game. I opened the door and asked, Anybody think that ball was no good? Nobody was willing to say either my shot was definitely good or the shot had definitely tinned. I could not believe it. But I thought, well, this is supposed to be a friendly match, i'm not going to get upset about it, let him have his tin. 

Then, rather cheekily, he takes the point -- not a let, he just gives himself the point -- and serves again to me from the other side. It's a better serve, a little off the wall, so I let this one drift by, thinking I'll get it off the wall. But, lo and behold, the ball hits a perfect backwall nick, and rolls out unhittable. He laughs, as do a few of his friends watching. 

I felt a synapse in my brain collapse, as did the rest of my game. I lost 3-0.  I was as irritated by that match as i've ever been on the squash court. 

Later, after i calmed down, I joined a foursome and, for the first time in probably 6 years, played doubles. Now THAT was fun.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

World Squash Day

C'mon, there's still time to get off your arse and arrange to go to your local club and participate in World Squash Day this Saturday. I'll be at the CityView Racquet Club here in NYC; you go over to your club and participate in this promotional event that seeks to highlight the international scope of our great game. Now go on..... 

Also, today I submitted my second and final chapter in what has rightly been called the world's finest communal novel about squash, The Club From Hell. Check it out here.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Schumacher Knocks Me Down a Peg

My arch-nemesis Dr. Schumacher has been laying low for quite some time. The last match we played was all the way back in late May, when I beat the poor man 6-2. 

Yep, 6-2, because we were playing tennis. At the end, Schumacher stalked off the court, darkly vowing revenge. 

But, perhaps fearful of another ignominious beat-down, the good doctor maintained an unnerving quiet. Not a peep, not a growl. Nothing.

Then suddenly, last week, a challenge. Schumacher invited me to play at a new club he recently joined. The club is out in suburbia where he takes his kids to play. Three nice new courts, a lot of exercise equipment, and loud and annoying thump-thump music as a gaggle of initiative-challenged knuckleheads did spinning, heedless of the effect of all that silly music on the squash players just around the corner. Not a bad place over all, though, despite a remarkably surly reception booth attendant who should be immediately fired.

So, we played. For a variety of reasons I had had a 2-week hiatus, and the first game was a bit ragged. He won it, although not by all that much. The second game saw me claw ahead in the early going, hitting a few nice drop shots that were too tight for old Schumacher to get. But to his credit he bounced back, doing what I have to admit is a great roll corner shot that leaves me paralyzed every time the bastard does it. Arrrgh. We ended up 10-all, but through perhaps divine intervention, yours truly won in overtime. Sweet.

But the next game was not so sweet. In fact, it sucked. I took a little mental holiday and admired the beeches and palm trees at a wonderful resort in my head while Dr. Schumacher performed surgery on my game. I think it was a lobotomy. I think I amassed a total of 4 points... 

Well, down 2-1 in games, I tried pretty hard in the next game, but Schumacher, sensing victory, would not give up, carrying the day for all Schumachers the world over, 11-8. The doctor wins!

Oddly, later in the day, a tennis buddy of mine asked if I wanted to play. I demurred, having just played squash and feeling a bit sore. But, being a sucker for a decent rackets game, he eventually prevailed, so off we went, and I played tennis magnificently. Hit nice forehands with good top spin and highly undercut backhands. Ran pretty well too, if i say so myself. Serve a bit off, though, although that's far from unusual.

Oh well, the ups and downs of the Squashist.... I never promised you perfection!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Some Unsolicited Advice for My Fav Nicol D!

I watched Nicol David's match against England's Alison Waters at the recently concluded Weymuller Open. I switched on the web-streamed event expecting to watch Nicol deliver some kick-ass to the recently injured Waters, who despite the fact that she has been out of action for what I believe has been an entire year has roared back to competitiveness.

Waters has never been a push-over, but Nicol has beaten her consistently over the years and I figured she had her number.

But from the start, I could see something funky was afoot. Waters was almost as good at retrieving as the legendary Nicol, and her shots were as dead-on accurate as Nicol's. I figured this was going to be an unexpectedly good match. And when Waters actually took the first game, I sensed some frustration from the Malaysian superstar.

One thing Waters was doing well was going for the occasional unexpected shot. On several occasions, for instance, Waters countered a dropshot with a return drop to the other side of the front court, always an unexpected shot selection that had Nicol scrambling. On the other hand, as I watched the game, I started amusing myself by trying to guess where Nicol was going to hit her shot, and I think I was correct about 95% of the time. Waters, on the other hand, was trickier.

In the end, Waters won, and hats off to her. A very big win to a woman who has only recently re-emerged from a long injury break.

But as some unsolicited advice for Nicol, she should increase her trickiness factor. I didn't see any holding of her shots, I didn't see her setting up for a drop and then suddenly hitting a lob, or showing a cross-court only to hit a rail shot. Nicol's shots are so good, so tight, partly because she is so quickly on the ball that she has the time to get her body in exactly the right position to get that perfect length, or hit that ball right down the wall, but the downside of this is that her set-up makes the shot she is about to hit too predictable. Mix it up, Nicol! Next time I'll see you in the winner's circle!